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Gemstone Knowledge - Must-Knows in the World of Fine Jewelry

Freshwater pearls? Saltwater pearls?

What sets baroque pearls apart? (Part One)

Olivia - September 9, 2019

Let's begin with the formation of natural pearls. When a mollusk senses foreign objects invading its shell, it secretes layers of nacre to encapsulate the intruders, reducing discomfort and gradually forming what we know as "pearls."

Truly natural pearls are exceptionally rare, with perhaps one natural pearl found among fifteen thousand mollusks.

Today, regardless of their price, all pearls are cultivated through artificial techniques.

▎The term "natural pearls" commonly used in the market usually refers to cultured pearls.

The often-heard "cultured pearls" refer to pearls that are artificially cultivated.

Depending on the species of mollusk, as well as the cultivation methods and environment, pearls have different names and prices. Many people mistakenly believe that cultured pearls are fake pearls, but in reality, cultured pearls, like natural pearls, are products of pearls enveloping foreign objects. The difference lies in whether this foreign object that causes the formation of pearls is accidental or intentional.

Natural pearls are not afraid of water, but it's best not to wear them while bathing.

Pearls are mostly composed of calcium carbonate and are highly sensitive to acidity and alkalinity. Therefore, we advise customers not to wear pearls while bathing, not because they're afraid of water (after all, pearls grow in water), but because the ingredients in detergents or cosmetics can erode calcium carbonate, causing natural pearls to lose their luster.

▎Freshwater Pearls

The most common type of freshwater pearls that people encounter are often produced through non-nucleated cultivation techniques. Because they lack a nucleus (a shape on which pearls can grow), freshwater pearls tend to grow more freely. A single freshwater pearl mussel can produce 10 to 60 pearls, which are typically rice-shaped, oval, or slightly flattened. Truly round pearls are rare, with only 1 or 2 of higher-grade and valuable pearls typically found among 100 freshwater pearls.

▎China Produces Over 90% of the World's Pearl Output

The industry of pearl cultivation originated in Japan, where it has a long and renowned history. With the proliferation of pearl cultivation and the increasing market demand, more efficient and large-scale cultivation methods have been continuously innovated in China. Today, the majority of cultured pearls available in the market come from China. It's important to caution enthusiasts of authentic Japanese pearls to be careful not to inadvertently purchase pearls from Japan that have been rebranded as "overwater" and are consequently priced much higher.

▎Easy Care for Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls, lacking a nucleus, are composed entirely of nacre, making them easy to maintain and care for.

High-quality freshwater pearls boast beautiful luster comparable to that of saltwater pearls. Moreover, they come in a diverse range of sizes, from 3mm to 16mm, offering abundant options at prices significantly lower than their saltwater counterparts. Larger freshwater pearls have higher density and specific gravity compared to saltwater pearls, giving them a substantial presence. If you're looking for statement jewelry, a bold and impressive appearance is essential.



▎New Type of "Nucleated" Freshwater Pearls

Nucleated freshwater pearls were cultivated in 2011, marking a groundbreaking achievement. As a tribute to the great inventor, they were named Edison Pearls. Each pearl is produced by a single mussel, resulting in larger sizes compared to typical non-nucleated freshwater pearls, often ranging above 12mm and reaching up to 20mm, with a higher rate of perfectly round shapes and better luster.

Edison pearls come in a variety of colors, including common shades like white and pink typical of freshwater pearls, as well as more intense hues such as vivid orange, mysterious purple, deep blue, antique bronze, and violet, displaying metallic overtones.

The naturally saturated and vibrant colors of top-grade Edison pearls rival those of saltwater pearls.

▎Uniqueness Matters More than Perfection to OYJ

The first time I saw these pearls, I was astonished by their vibrant iridescence! OYJ deliberately chose irregularly shaped Edison pearls with wrinkles and folds instead of opting for perfectly smooth surfaces. Due to their nucleation, while the overall shape remains mostly round, the surface texture resembles fabric wrinkles, imparting a subdued yet luminous quality compared to uniformly smooth pearls.

▎Nucleation Allows for Diverse Shapes

The presence of a nucleus enables the cultivation of various distinctive shapes in nucleated freshwater pearls. Unlike non-nucleated pearls that typically form round shapes, nucleated freshwater pearls can be grown into a wide array of unique forms. Coin-shaped and diamond-shaped pearls, for example, are cultivated through nucleation, where the internal nucleus determines the pearl's shape. These pearls are ideal for individuals who appreciate novel designs or seek something unique. Despite their small and delicate appearance, they stand out distinctly from others.

OYJ recommends freshwater pearl products.




The same freshwater pearls, with and without nuclei, are vastly different! Can everyone now tell the difference at a glance?


"Pearls are always appropriate." - Jackie Kennedy


The beauty of pearls truly shines when you wear them.OYJ has carefully selected the following versatile pearl jewelry pieces that are perfect for any occasion.


Editor | Olivia

珠寶設計師 / 品牌創辦人 / 會計師 / 旅遊狂熱者,有著不安於室的反骨靈魂,把自小的興趣變成終身職業,從會計師轉換跑道變成珠寶設計師,成立自己的同名品牌,用輕珠寶打動女性的心,現在在全球已經有超過 20 個國際通路可以看到 OLIVIA YAO JEWELLERY,也讓每位有夢想的女性看到更多生活方式的可能。